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Chinese Patents and IP Theft: How Could It Affect You?

Intellectual property protection can be complicated overseas… especially in certain countries. IP protection in China has been talked about for years. It’s been heating up even more lately, and it’s a major factor in the current trade war between the United States and China. If you’re an inventor or patent holder, the current IP controversy regarding China could affect you. How?

Here we’ll take a look at the state of intellectual property in China as it affects U.S. patents and analyze the case for filing a patent in China.

The China IP Case With Makin Bacon®

Western brands large and small are being attacked by Chinese intellectual property theft, thanks to lax Chinese IP laws. It is well known that Chinese counterfeits of goods are rampant, with cheap imitations of luxury items such as Rolexes and designer fashions manufactured and sold all over China. This problem persists because there is little market oversight and no enforcement of IP protection in the country.

One Western product that demonstrates this case well is Makin Bacon®. This product was invented and patented by American Abbey Fleck at the age of eight with the help of her parents. Abbey’s invention was unique in that it let users cook bacon in the microwave successfully without having the bacon sit in its own grease. The product was picked up by Walmart and became hugely successful, but today the company faces larger challenges due to Chinese IP theft. Sellers on Amazon from China made an exact replica product, right down to Abbey’s image and barcode to sell to customers. Customers were unknowingly purchasing the counterfeit product, and then reporting that the product melted in the microwave, which had never before happened. This hurt the reputation of the original product, through no fault of their own.

Abbey did get Amazon to remove the counterfeit products at first, but the resellers just kept popping up online faster than she could get them taken down, showing the rampant grip that Chinese IP theft can have on Western products, especially in the age of online retail.

So as an inventor, how can filing a patent in China protect you if you’re considering doing business there?

The Case for Filing a Patent in China

Patent protection can be expensive, especially overseas. With Chinese patent protection, you’ll have to make sure that prior art already doesn’t exist on your product there and you’ll have to get your patent application translated into the appropriate language. With all the potential hassle, many inventors wonder if patenting overseas is worth it, but there are a few factors to consider that could make business and life considerably easier if something goes wrong. Take the case of Ruth Brons, who invented a product that helps students correctly hold a violin bow. Ruth discovered too late that counterfeit versions of her product were already being sold in China when she started looking to expand to the Asian market. Because of this, she later had to spend a ton of money fighting for IP protection in China, since she didn’t have the funds to get the product patented in China early on.

Want to learn more about patenting your invention overseas? There are systems in place that make it easier to do, such as the International Patent Application. Our Guide to Global Patents can help clarify the process.

Global Patent Solutions can assist you in performing a prior review or patent search if you’re looking to have your idea patented here or abroad in China. For more information or to get started today, contact Global Patent Solutions.